Thirty-seven years ago, Adam Crapser was adopted from South Korea by a U.S. couple. On October 24, an immigration court denied his final request to stay in the United States. Just weeks later, he was deported to South Korea, a country he has not seen since he was three years old.
While Crapser could have appealed the decision, he opted not to so as to avoid further detention. Lori Walls of the Washington Immigration Defense Group, who represents Crapser, said he was “desperate” to be out. He had been detained in a federal immigration detention center in Tacoma, Washington for nine months.
Crapser’s deportation was the result of a loophole in the Child Citizenship Act of 2000. The Act automatically granted citizenship to those living legally in the United States under IR-4 documents—the documents given to adopted children. It also automatically extended citizenship to future adoptees. Prior to the Act’s passage, adoptive parents needed to apply for naturalization for their children to become citizens. But, according to Becky Belcore, who was also adopted from South Korea at a young age, “[a] lot of times, parents simply didn’t know that they were supposed to do it.”
While good news for many adoptees, the Act was not retroactive, with the unhappy result that adoptees already over the age of 18 when the Act passed were not automatically granted citizenship. According to the advocacy group Adoptee Rights Campaign, about 35,000 people currently fall within this loophole. While adoptees can apply for citizenship, citizenship may be denied if they have committed minor crimes.
This is what happened to Crapser. Crapser applied for a green card in 2012 so that he could be eligible for long-term employment. However, due to a criminal record stemming from a difficult childhood,